Thursday, July 26, 2012

Even More Uniforms?

About four days ago, the Michigan athletic department released images of the commemorative uniforms that will be worn in the upcoming 2012 season opener against Alabama.

The design features most notably a maize coloring along the shoulder-line. The football gloves, which are also part of the ensemble, display the entire chorus text of "The Victors," Michigan's famous fight song. You can see a closer image of the gloves here. There is also a short hype video featuring the uniform.

We apparently live in a world where Michigan will without a doubt produce these kind of uniforms on a regular basis. I'd like to offer another 1,000-word rant on why Michigan has no business changing uniforms that looked perfect and stunning during the Charles Woodson era, but there's really nothing more to say.

I had a general reaction to the sea of uniform change when Michigan released "special uniforms" months before the Notre Dame night game, although that was based on the assumption that the special uniforms would be a one-time thing, and then I had a more visceral reaction, though not in so many words, to the downright ugly uniforms the Michigan athletic department thought would be a nice surprise for the Michigan State game. And then of course Michigan had special uniforms for the Sugar Bowl.

The rationale here from the Michigan athletic department, at least according to the press release, appears to be that Michigan players and staff like to change things up once in a while. "From time to time, whether it's a regular-season or bowl game, our coaches and players enjoy an opportunity to choose an alternate jersey to wear," athletic director David Brandon said in the released statement.

It sounds innocent enough, and most people are on the sides of the players--whatever can help them win, do it. The hardcore Michigan fan in me immediately thinks all this means is "Tradition be damned," but I suppose I wouldn't have such a colossal problem with the new uniforms if they weren't always such an eyesore. Not to mention how much of a departure it is for Michigan suddenly wanting to become Oregon, at least in a visual sense, though that's probably an extreme position.

There have been a couple of reactions to these uniforms. As expected, the reaction on Michigan football's Facebook page has been mixed. I am continuously amazed that there are always people who love everything the athletic department does, no matter what it is. On the other side, most of the dissenters are hardcore traditionalists like myself.

Meanwhile, at, Brian Cook (the website's administrator and lead blogger), who has long been a protester of uniform changes, said in a recent blog post that he is "filled with moderate distaste, so these are probably good as far as alternate uniforms go."

He also pointed out an important caveat: the season opener against Alabama in Dallas, Texas, will be the final time that the Michigan winged helmets feature numbers. As it says in the previously linked press release, the practice of numbers on the helmets "will be suspended after the season opener." Michigan will also use its traditional home and away uniforms for the remainder of the regular season, so that's good. Nothing was said, however, about the uniforms that could be worn if Michigan played in a bowl game.

Brad at Maize n' Blue Nation said that these commemorative uniforms are "not bad" and sees a "steady march towards the more subtle and toned down maize." He's also relieved that the pants aren't white, and unlike myself, he rather likes the gloves. "The 2011 helmet numbers will make a single game cameo for this game only, then discontinued," he added, "which I think is for the best."

The irony is not lost on me that most of what Michigan fans complain about these days are the decisions with the uniforms rather than the decisions in coaching. Dave Brandon bought himself a lot of slack by hiring Brady Hoke and delivering the smash hit that was the "Under the Lights" event against Notre Dame that kicked-off Michigan's 11-2 run. This is probably even the most traditional fan like myself doesn't call for Brandon to be fired all based on these uniforms. It's just a little depressing that there doesn't seem to be an end to it.

As Michigan fans we're so used to the uniforms changing only extremely rarely, and under Brandon's tenure, the uniforms changed more times in one year than they did in the past decade. So, forgive me if whenever I see a new uniform design, I get a little queasy about it. I'd also have less of a problem if, at least once, we just stuck with something consistent.

Like I said, there doesn't appear to be any type of end to Michigan making "special" uniforms. This is a bold new era in Michigan football, and I don't think I'll ever get used to it. Hopefully there will be more victories on the field to make the new uniforms a little easier to handle.